Monday, July 18, 2011

Six Columbus men plead not guilty in dog fighting case

By Alan Riquelmy, Ledger-Enquirer

Six men accused of either dog fighting or watching a dog fight outside a Garden Drive home Sunday afternoon pleaded not guilty Monday in Columbus Recorder’s Court.
The men, ranging in age from 20 to 43, disputed testimony from two Columbus police officers. The men said they either tried to pull two pit bulls away from each other or had arrived at the home moments before police arrived and drew their weapons.
Joseph S. Best, 20, was charged with a felony count of dog fighting after police say they spotted him near his pit bull while with a group of men in the backyard of a Garden Drive home around 6 p.m. Sunday. Best is held on $5,000 bond.
Joseph S. Best

Marcus D. Thomas, 25; Douglas Armour Sr. 43; Douglas Armour Jr., 20; Roger Thomas, 23; and Courtney Dixon, 21, each face a misdemeanor charge of being a spectator at a dog fight. Additionally, Armour Sr. faces charges of giving a false name and disorderly while intoxicated. All are being held on $500 bonds, except for Armour Sr. who faces $750 in bonds and a $125 fine for the disorderly charge.
Officer Deitrich B. Jones testified in court Monday that he responded to Garden Drive about possible dog fighting in the area. When he and other officers arrived, he heard growling and barking coming from the backyard of 2702 Garden Drive.
Jones said he looked into the backyard and saw the six men watching two dogs fight.
“The men were talking loudly and laughing,” Jones added.
Two dogs, one of them Best’s and the other a possible stray, fought while three other dogs were leashed in the backyard. All the dogs had scars, and there was only one doghouse.
The leashed dogs couldn’t reach food and water, Jones said.
Jones approached the house from the side while Officer S.A. McGlaun walked into the backyard, drew his weapon and ordered everyone on the ground.
That’s when Yolanda Daniels, who has a child with Armour Jr., returned home from a pool party.
“Them dogs get loose and they come in this yard,” said Daniels, who didn’t appear in court. “I know they weren’t back here fighting dogs.”
Daniels’ backyard has an entrance to Alford Street. A fence is bent to the ground in one spot, leaving enough space for a vehicle to drive into the backyard.
Armour Sr. told Judge Mary Buckner that he hit one of the dogs with a stick in an attempt to stop the fighting. When he pulled the dog back, it tried to bite him and he released it.
Best said he had his dog loose in the backyard when another dog approached and attacked. He tried to stop the fight, and that’s when officers arrived.
“They were already fighting when we came in the door,” said Armour Jr.
Armour Sr. cursed at police and said he didn’t care if officers arrested him. He also gave a false name at one point, Jones said.
Animal Control officers arrived and took custody of the five dogs in the backyard, Jones said. “Dutch,” a smaller pit bull, and “Gucci,” a poodle mixed breed, remained at the home Monday.
Buckner found probable cause in all the cases and bound them over to Muscogee County Superior Court.
Someone convicted of dog fighting faces one to five years in prison and a fine of no less than $5,000. Misdemeanor convictions have maximum one-year sentences and $1,000 fines.

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